Monday, 23 September 2013

The Long Walk to Freedom continues

On Wednesday afternoon last week, I sat behind the plate glass window of the Festival Hall, on London's Southbank. I drank my coffee inside, looking out to see how many of the people hurrying by would look up at Nelson Mandela's great bronze head. Would anyone approach the plinth to read the inscription? But apart from one lady who stopped for at least a minute, lost in serious thought, even passing glances were rare.

Three hours later, I found myself outside, beneath the statue with fellow artists. We raised our fists in tribute to the dreams of the man above us. A small crowd quickly gathered like bees around the camera folk.

In the evening, each writer/artist had just three minutes on stage to make a personal offering for Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk to FreedomAs a reminder of 27 years in jail, 27 readings from Madiba's autobiography interspersed our pieces. The shared energy felt good.

I spoke about the generation who followed after Nelson Mandela and the Rivonia Trialists when all resistance to apartheid was burnt out in South Africa's mid-1960s.  Within ten years, new resistant shoots were emerging. I spoke about one young man in that new generation, Neil Aggett.

Nelson Mandela represents for me the capacity to imagine change and transformation - and Neil's life reflected both of these. He changed and transformed himself - to live his principles. He paid the highest price.  

Death of an Idealist: In Search of Neil Aggett  will soon be launched in the UK. I hope readers will warm to him and discover a part-forgotten, part-hidden history with a legacy for today. We urgently need the deep change and transformation for which Madiba raised his shining beacon.


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